New York joined more than a dozen states this year in significantly extending statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits over sexual abuse.
August 14, 2019 Comments Off on New York joined more than a dozen states this year in significantly extending statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits over sexual abuse.
He Says a Priest Abused Him. 50 Years Later, He Can Now Sue.
A new law has created a “look-back window,” during which claims that had passed the statute of limitations can be revived.
By Rick Rojas Aug. 13, 2019
Major institutions across New York State, from the Catholic Church to the Boy Scouts of America to elite private schools, are bracing for a deluge of lawsuits now that adults who said they were sexually abused as children will be entitled to pursue formal legal action.
New York joined more than a dozen states this year in significantly extending statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits over sexual abuse. Previously, the state had required that such suits be filed before a victim’s 23rd birthday.
Under the new law in New York, the Child Victims Act, which was approved by the Legislature in January, accusers will be able to sue until they are 55.
The new law includes a one-year period, known as a look-back window, that revives cases that had expired, in many instances decades ago, under previous statutes of limitations.
The one-year period begins on Wednesday, and the impact could cause major financial stress for many institutions in New York, including the state’s eight Catholic dioceses, which have faced a series of scandals involving abuse by clergy….
In lobbying for the new law, advocates for abuse victims have highlighted the toll of sex abuse on children, and the decades it can often take before they are able to speak up about it, if they can at all.
It took Charlie d’Estries years to process the sexual encounters that he said he remembered having with a priest as a boy. They were naked together, as he recounted it, and their relationship became sexual. Still, for decades, Mr. d’Estries, 64, did not describe it as abuse, and refused to see himself as a victim.
But last year, when Mr. d’Estries returned to his Catholic school on Long Island for a reunion, a nun he had known as a student offhandedly called him “Billy’s buddy,” a reference to the priest.
In a moment, he said, everything shifted. He was deeply shaken. He realized he had been abused. He was a victim. And he wanted justice, he said.
But he discovered he could not sue until the law changed….
This year, far more than in past years, legislatures in nearly 40 states introduced proposals to expand statutes of limitations. New laws were enacted in 18 states and the District of Columbia. New Jersey was among them, passing a law that includes a two-year look-back window that opens later this year.
“The significance of it is a switch in the balance of power,” said Marci A. Hamilton, the chief executive of Child U.S.A., a think tank focused on child protection at the University of Pennsylvania. “There was a severe imbalance of power that led to their abuse in the first place. The culture shut them out of the legal system until now. For them, this is validation.”….
Lawmakers in New York had tried and failed for well over a decade to expand the state’s statutes of limitations, which were regarded as among the most restrictive in the country. “We used to call New York a ‘shut down state,’” Mr. Amala said.
Each time, the law’s supporters were thwarted in the Legislature by opposition from the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, Orthodox Jewish groups and the insurance industry.
In years of jostling over the legislation, the look-back window had been the single most disputed element.
The New York Catholic Conference said before the law passed that the look-back window would “force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge and in which they had no role.” (Many of the clergy members named as credibly accused of abuse are dead, infirm or no longer affiliated with the church.)
The State Assembly had passed the legislation multiple times, but before this year, the Senate never took it up for a vote. The political calculus in New York changed, however, after Democrats won control of the Senate in November…..
In future cases, the Child Victims Act allows prosecutors several more years to bring criminal charges, and decades more to victims weighing lawsuits. But advocates and lawyers stressed that the new law does not apply retroactively, meaning that virtually every abuse survivor older than 23 must bring any claims through the look-back window.
In the Rockefeller University case, the endocrinologist, Dr. Reginald Archibald, who died in 2007, is accused of abusing scores of boys and teenagers….
The Rockefeller University Hospital, through a spokesman, declined to comment. In a statement last year, the hospital acknowledged reports of “certain inappropriate conduct during patient examinations,” and sent a letter alerting about 1,000 former patients to the allegations.
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October 19, 2018 § Leave a comment